Sandy Evacuees Still in Limbo; Housing Crisis Looms

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the chaos of the evacuation shelters and the ever-shifting City response made it difficult to predict the true scope of need for those that had been displaced. But three months later, the Coalition for the Homeless has continued early efforts to connect with displaced individuals and families scattered throughout the City—some in fancy midtown hotels, others in decrepit rooming houses. These thousands of evacuees are still living in limbo—unable to return to where they once lived, unable to afford market-rate apartments, and receiving no guarantee of help from the City of New York.

The biggest and yet still unmet need of these thousand of evacuees is affordable housing. In interviewing hundreds of evacuees, we have learned that many were precariously housed before the storm—renting rooms and illegal basements or living without leases and in ¾ houses. Others simply lost affordable apartments that will now be difficult to replace.

Yet amidst this incredible need, the City’s response has been entirely inadequate. One website touted by the City as a portal for housing offers apartments at prices upwards of $3,000. Another program offered through HPD offers no guarantee of affordable housing and to-date has not moved anyone out of temporary shelter. Adding to the stress of evacuees is the uncertain nature of their temporary accommodations and how much longer both FEMA and the City will continue paying for their shelter.

Before the storm, a record 48,700 men, women, and children slept in New York City homeless shelters. The Bloomberg administration and all levels of government must come up with a better solution for these thousands of evacuees who cannot and should not be forced to enter the already bursting NYC shelter system.